Regional Focus: Frontline Leaders at the Forefront

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Frontline leaders are identified as a group of employees that play a critical role at the workplace. Their work involves managing teams of employees, translating the organization’s strategy to rank and file and motivating employees to ensure that it gets implemented. Great Place to Work® recognizes the important role frontline leaders play and companies that develop their frontline leaders also grow a high-trust workplace culture overall. In this article, our Certified™ companies across the ASEAN and ANZ regions share how they enable their frontline leaders and the positive impact they create for the company.

Ms Kornkanok Thaweetnakorn, a Trainer Specialist at foodpanda Thailand shared that a frontline manager’s role is important in any organization. They undertake to communicate the purpose and a clear background of every task and project to the team that they manage. How has foodpanda enabled its frontline leaders to do so? Each of them undergoes training sessions to learn how to facilitate and structure weekly team meetings with employees to convey the agenda and the strategy. The company believes that employees experience an increased level of trust when they understand how their role aligns with organizational values and how they can contribute to the organization’s vision. This view is also echoed by Ms Karen Hutcheson, foodpanda’s Director of People, “Trust is absolutely an integral component in building a great workplace culture. When employees are trusted, they work with more passion, are more motivated and engaged resulting in job satisfaction, and retention. A high-trust culture also fosters creativity, autonomy and motivation.”

foodpanda Thailand’s Managing Director, Ms Siripa Jungsawat shared 3 tips on how frontline leaders can help to build a great team culture in the organization.

  1. Learn to adapt with changes and be flexible with the team. As every employee is different, we must know how to motivate each person from each business unit.
  2. Support employees with the right skills and knowledge and help unlock their potential.
  3. Groom the leaders to know how to develop, analyse and solve the problems.

Autonomy is a big part of the workplace culture at ELCA Vietnam and one in which frontline managers are given to manage their teams. The IT solutions company aims to give its leaders total autonomy and they are also supported by the company when they require any help or in mentoring others. “For every leader that we grow, there is a team of young professionals learning how to be the leaders of the next generation through the flow-on effect. We learn by example and lead by example. That’s why we make it work,” said Ms Nguyen Thi Hoai Linh, Head of HR, ELCA Vietnam. 

It is this autonomy that Ms Pham Thi My Hanh, QA Engineer at ELCA experienced as an employee, that has made life easier for her to juggle as a mother. She values the flexibility in her job, and the support and clear communication from her managers. “I am able to start and finish when I want, and I am even allowed to work from home one day per week. My manager is so positive about this and works with me to make sure we deliver our tasks, but still allows me to be the best mum I can be.” In turn, she has also learnt to listen to her other colleagues as her leaders have led by example, and the final outcome is a happier disposition among employees at work and in their personal lives. 

ELCA believes that every person in the team plays a valuable role in the organization and is vital to the company’s success. “We hold every employee in the highest regard. We ensure ongoing training occurs for every person so that they grow personally, professionally and technically, and we also make sure the person is more important than the project. It’s our people that make projects a success, so it is my job as a leader to ensure our people are happy at work,” says Ms Nguyen.

Project Manager Ms Mai, Mai knows the importance of establishing weekly communication with her team. As a frontline leader, she conducts daily briefings and weekly work reviews as an avenue to support her team’s tasks, in addition to encouraging informal and casual interactions with them. “Listening to their stories, taking action and always keeping my word is the key for me to get trust from my team members.”

Frontline leaders always receive the support they need to carry out their work. Ms Mai Nguyen, General Manager at Groove Technology adds that management skills training and learning activities across the company are part and parcel of the frontline manager’s training. Similarly, they also utilize the communication channels and frequent catch-ups for advice and suggestions from their management when they encounter any leadership-related issues or employee concerns and challenges. This People-first philosophy has resulted in a safe environment for employees to share their thoughts, and taking prompt action to the issues raised has helped the company to improve and to gain trust from its people, shared Mr Matt Long, CEO of Groove Technology.

Hilti supports their frontline leaders with 4 main pillars of its people approach: taking action, a direct ownership of their career path, focusing on employee’s strengths and conducting frequent conversations with employees. The foundation of its growth and development strategy also rests on transparency and trust within the company.

Ms.Mye-lene Teo, Head of HR at Hilti Malaysia shared that the leadership sets the tone for the company culture. “We demonstrate the values that we want to see in staff members.” Indeed, as Mr.Lee Wai-Meng, Managing Director of Hilti Malaysia shared: “Our frontline leaders often go above and beyond their job to ensure the well-being, development and growth as well as continuous engagement of the people under our care. Especially during the pandemic periods where employees are forced to work remotely or from home, taking care of their well-being by staying in close contact with their people is the utmost priority of our frontline leaders, to instil hope in them and ensure that they are still able to collaborate and work effectively outside the office.”

Frontline leaders conduct frequent conversations with their people on their individual development needs to ensure that gaps are identified and closed with proper development plans and employees’ strengths are maximized in their jobs. Lastly, the frontline leaders go the extra mile to celebrate team success and build closer bonding with their people by organizing various engagement activities at work.

At Adobe, a high-trust workplace culture is valued within the organization and the way to building it is when leaders lead with authentic empathy in the workplace. Mr.Simon Tate, President, Adobe Asia Pacific says: “Ensuring that our teams across ANZ and APAC are built on a high-trust basis first and foremost fosters great ideas, personal development, and successful careers at Adobe.” As a frontline leader, they are tasked with learning the dynamics and biases of hybrid work and are encouraged to initiate a two-way dialogue with staff to see what works and what needs innovating.

The concept of a respectful and authentic leader builds a strong team culture and Adobe believes that every single team member deserves to have a leader that understands how they work best, give them the coaching and feedback to develop further, and puts each team member’s success before their own personal gain. “Leadership is never about the leader; it is always about the team you have the honour of leading. Understanding that will go a long way to building a strong culture of high performing rock-stars,” says Ms.Claire Williams, Director, ANZ Operations.

Relationship, Character and Purpose are the 3 essential values that HKS, an interdisciplinary global design company, prides itself on but above all, it is their people that forms the most important asset. For the organization, its frontline leaders embrace a collaborative culture with a focus on trust and empathy that allows other employees to excel and contribute to the best of their abilities. The company believes that these values along with a diversified and an inclusive structure, helps in developing the capability of its frontline leaders, making them more effective as people leaders.

Mr.Gordon Gn, HKS Singapore’s Office Director and Vice-President added that its frontline leaders operate based on humility and to “leave no person behind”. He explained that this staff motto drives employees to achieve new heights as innovation happens when there is a diversity of perspectives, cultures and backgrounds.

Senior Medical Planner Mr.David Huang shared that the company continues to be a Great Place to Work due to four key factors – trust, talent, relationship, and care. “HKS treats employees as professionals. I am given the right tools, the work environment and the time to produce my best work, as well as due recognition for excellent work, opportunities to grow in my career and fair compensation.” He shares that this empowers and motivates him and his colleagues to go above and beyond what is expected. According to him, HKS’s organizational structure cultivates strong relationships as “core team members stay together for significant amounts of time so we can grow together, rely on one another, and develop friendships beyond work”. David feels that the company is a Great Place to Work as demonstrated by the high staff retention rate, the positive energy in the office, and the joy he feels in coming to work each day.

As an integrated communications agency, PRecious has dedicated time and effort to thinking through initiatives to support its frontline managers. One of it is to be transparent with frontline leaders such as sharing information on company direction, revenue and other aspects related to the company. The culture of encouraging its frontline leaders to have a voice to speak up and share their thoughts, and by treating them with respect and listening to their needs and the teams’ needs, are corporate practices within the company. “I am committed towards building transparency and openness across the company as these are key ingredients for building trust,” says Mr Lars Voedisch, Managing Director at PRecious.

Daphne Lee

Daphne believes in building community-relatable content, telling stories through narratives that add value in today’s workplace and in culture-building. Her idea of a great workplace is one that thrives on openness, support and inclusivity while building trust and working towards a common business growth and purpose. A journalist, she spent 15 years writing for trade publications, lifestyle magazines and broadsheet supplements. Daphne was also active in the Parent Support Group of her daughters’ school, chairing the volunteer-run committee for 3 years. A mum of two teenagers and two adopted dogs, she enjoys riding on her trusty bicycle to discover new sights and sounds in Singapore.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.